The mere act of entering a building or property can be enough for the crime of unlawful entry in the District of Columbia. “Unlawful entry” occurs when a person enters or remains on a property against the will of the lawful occupant or owner.
The DC unlawful entry attorneys at Bruckheim & Patel are experienced in defending unlawful entry cases in the District of Columbia, and will be able to evaluate the specific facts of the criminal case, determine appropriate defenses, and preserve evidence that can be crucial to the defense. If you or someone you know has been charged with the crime of unlawful entry in the District of Columbia, call (202) 930-3464 for a free consultation with one of our experienced lawyers today.
TYPES OF UNLAWFUL ENTRY CRIMES
A person can be guilty of the crime of unlawful entry in the District of Columbia by either unlawfully: (1) Entering a property; or (2) Remaining on a property.
TYPE #1: ENTERING PROPERTY
It is a crime in DC for a person to enter a building or home knowing that the occupant or owner does not wish him to be there. The person usually knows that a person does not want them to be there if the owner has explicitly excluded them from the premises, if there is a legal protective order against the person, or if the person knows from past interactions that they are not welcome.
If the building is vacant, boarded up, or displays a “no trespassing” sign, it is assumed the person should have known that they are not permitted to be there.
It is important to note that the person does not have to actually enter the building in order to be convicted of the crime of unlawful entry. Simply attempting to enter the building is enough for the conviction. Therefore, a person can be convicted of this type of unlawful entry if they simply turn the door handle to a building that they know they are not permitted to enter.
TYPE #2: REMAINING ON PROPERTY
The second type of unlawful entry makes it a crime to remain on a property or premises after the person was directed to leave by someone who controls the property, such as an occupant or owner. In order to be guilty of the crime of unlawful entry, the person must have refused to leave after being explicitly directed to do so.
There may be more than one person who has the authority to tell the person to leave the property. For example, an employee, owner, or renter of a property may all have the right to tell a person to leave. However, a person who also has a legal right to be on the property (such as a renter) cannot be convicted of the crime of unlawful entry. Therefore, if two people are renting an apartment, one of the renters does not have the legal right to tell the other to leave the property. However, both renters may have the right to tell a guest to leave the property.
PENALTIES FOR UNLAWFUL ENTRY
If convicted, the maximum punishment for unlawful entry can be up to six months (180 days) in jail, a fine of $1,000, or both.
UNLAWFUL ENTRY VERSUS BURGLARY
Often there is confusion between the crime of unlawful entry and the crime of burglary. The main difference between burglary and unlawful entry is that burglary requires the person to enter the property with the intention to commit a crime, such as theft. Unlawful entry, on the other hand, does not require the government to prove that there was any intent to commit a crime within the residence or business.
GET HELP FROM EXPERIENCED ATTORNEYS
There are many defenses to the crime of unlawful entry. For example, the person may have had a “good faith” belief that they were legally permitted to be on the property. Evidence that could support this belief is that the person was a renter of the property, had prior consent of the owner to be on the property, or had the consent of someone with superior authority to be on the property. Another possible defense is that the person did not actually know that they had been directed to leave or that they were not allowed to be on the property.
An experienced attorney will be able to determine which defenses to present based on the facts of your case. A knowledgeable DC unlawful entry lawyer would also be able to preserve and request any surveillance evidence, witness statements, or documentation to support your defense.
If you or someone that you know has been charged with the crime of unlawful entry in the District of Columbia, it is crucial that your defense is in capable hands. Contact the experienced D.C. attorneys at Bruckheim & Patel to ensure that you receive the best defense possible. Call (202) 930-3464 today for a free consultation.